UI police hand out ‘harsher’ citations

By Nick Fawell

The University Police are cracking down by being more aggressive with warnings and fines against pedestrians, skaters, bicyclists and motorists who put themselves or others in danger when navigating through traffic, Interim University Police Chief Kris Fitzpatrick said.

Though not the only cause, Fitzpatrick said that two student deaths resulting from bus accidents over the past two years have been a driving force for the harsher penalties.

“We are redirecting some of our efforts to traffic enforcement at this point,” Fitzpatrick said. “Although traffic and pedestrian safety has always been an issue, it’s come to the forefront (recently) . it’s not just about writing tickets.”

Examples of citable offenses are biking or skating down the wrong way of a one-way street, pedestrians stepping out in front of moving vehicles, or motorists and bicyclists not yielding to pedestrians when required to do so.

Lt. Vernon G. “Skip” Frost, patrol division commander for the University Police, said pedestrians who step in front of moving vehicles have become a real problem on campus. He explained that pedestrians do not have the right-of-way when they enter a crosswalk without giving vehicles enough time to stop.

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    Frost said warnings would likely be issued in instances where an individual is unaware of the rules or they are doing something that is not extremely hazardous. However, fines will be handed out without warning if the danger is more severe or someone has previously been warned.

    There is no set rule for issuance of a warning versus a fine. The level of discipline is determined at the discretion of the officer.

    “We put a lot of faith into our officers and the level of discretion that they have,” Frost said.

    Mark Szymanski, junior in LAS, who has been ticketed for riding his bike the wrong way on a one-way road, said that although he likes the idea of increased safety on campus he will only change how he rides when police are present.

    “Since I have gotten one of these (tickets) I try and look both ways for cops, and if there aren’t any around I’ll do whatever I did before,” Szymanski said.

    But Frost said it is not about writing tickets for the sake of writing tickets.

    “What we’re worried about is people’s safety,” Frost said. “We’re not going to be sitting on the side of the road waiting to snatch up and cite every person who crosses against the light.”

    In addition to issuing tickets, Fitzpatrick said the University Police will continue to keep students informed with presentations during freshman orientation as well as educational presentations in the residence halls as they have done since the early 90s.

    “Public safety is our business and if we’re going to keep people safe this is one of the things we really need to focus on,” Frost said. “This is one of the most overriding safety concerns on this campus.”